A STATEMENT FROM BWI – The Building and Wood Workers’ International Football is a game, but building stadiums is not child’s play. It is dangerous and tough labor. The workers who build the stadiums cannot be sacrificed for entertainment. This Friday, …

A STATEMENT FROM BWI – The Building and Wood Workers’ International

Football is a game, but building stadiums is not child’s play. It is dangerous and tough labor. The workers who build the stadiums cannot be sacrificed for entertainment.

This Friday, FIFA members will elect a new president. It is time for FIFA members to vote with conscience and send a message to the world that the game of football cannot play with human lives.

“Before the elections on Friday, the candidates should tell the public, football fans and workers what they will do to stop the slavery and all the deaths happening at World Cup construction sites. We want to know what they plan to do to ensure that human rights are protected in the preparations, during and after the World Cups,” said Ambet Yuson, general secretary of the BWI.

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is haunted by the ghosts of thousands of workers who have died building the stadiums that the beautiful game will be played in. Deaths and abuse of workers in Qatar have been widely reported in the media for several years. It is unconscionable that not one of the five candidates running for leadership of FIFA has acknowledged this grim reality in the FIFA election debate.

FIFA need to put the same strict requirements on host nations to protect the lives of workers as it does to protect corporate profits. Whoever wins the FIFA president elections needs to reform the organization and drive institutional changes that put human rights first. That is the message in the letters sent out to the five presidential candidates from the BWI (Building and Wood Workers’ International).

“We need the new president to break with the old regime of FIFA that refused to take any meaningful action to protect the rights of workers. They made a lot of promises over the years but we have never seen any real change on the ground. We need institutional changes with clear provisions on decent work and human rights in the criteria for hosting the World Cup. FIFA has the power to impose whatever conditions they like on the host-nations. It is time for them to show that they care as much about protecting human lives as protect the corporate profits of their sponsors,” said Ambet Yuson.

In Russia, as the country prepares to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia, construction workers including migrant worker face low wages, unsafe working conditions, and poor living conditions. Last December, two construction workers were killed while working at the Stadium on Krestovskiyostrov in St-Petersburg, one of the host cities for the 2018 World Cup. And just last week, a 21-year old worker was seriously injured when a panel board fell on him during the construction of a new World Cup stadium in Volgograd.

The two deaths in Russia puts the total toll of 38 workers who have died in the preparations of the past three major international football tournaments—2010 World Cup in South Africa, 2012 Euro Cup in Poland and Ukraine, and 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The working conditions in Qatar and Russia can according to the BWI easily be improved if FIFA starts taking workers’ rights issues as seriously as it does with sponsorship, licensing, sales and advertising regulations.

“Unfortunately, none of the candidates has given satisfactory answers on how they will improve the situation. We want to know what they will do to make sure that World Cup construction sites are safe, that workers have decent working conditions, labour rights and earn a living wage.” said Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of the BWI.

“The credibility of FIFA will not be restored by electing a new president, we do not trust FIFA until substantive reform is made and labor rights are addressed, if they only want FIFA can make respect of workers’ rights a condition for hosting the World Cup, and force all host nations to introduce basic labour protection laws and regulations. They use their power to protect the profits of their sponsors, so why not when it comes to protecting human lives?” said Ambet Yuson.

The BWI calls on FIFA to use its leverage to push all stakeholders associated to the World Cups to ensure that workers’ rights are at the core of the preparations.

To ensure the rights of World Cup workers, the BWI demands the following from the new president:

1. Adopt the principles of the ILO core conventions, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and include them in the criteria for bids by countries wishing to host the World Cup.

2. Adopt a mandatory policy of “Decent Work Stadium and Infrastructure Standards,” for all contracts throughout the supply chain related to the World Cup.

3. Require host nations to include of respect for workers’ rights, decent work, and binding provisions for safety and health in the “FIFA law.” We also believe that mechanisms such as labour inspections need to be added as a way to monitor the implementation of these components of the FIFA law.

4. Recognize the need for independent labour inspections. BWI calls on FIFA to conduct joint labour inspections with BWI to ensure international labour rights and international standards are adhered to in Qatar.

5. Create a Human Rights Advisory Board that includes trade union representatives and an Ombudsman.

6. Require FIFA business partners including local organisers, sponsors, and media partners to adopt a Human Rights Policy Statement.


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Gary Herman

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